Homelessness Plan for Northumberland

Until recently, Transition House provided housing for people in Northumberland who were in emergency situations – or otherwise simply homeless.  But on December 5, 2017 a client assaulted a worker and caused “considerable structural damage” to the premises so it was closed December 22 – supposedly temporarily.  The County is responsible for social services so they organized alternative emergency shelter – I understand in conjunction with the Salvation Army, Cobourg Police and others.  News is sparse – seemingly because of a decision to not provide information to the media – but separately the County is now making public their plans to provide a new Emergency Shelter System.

In mid 2017 a consultant was hired to review housing the homeless so the work started well before the Transition House incident.  As a result of the review, a decision was made that “the sheltering services program would be put to an RFP seeking new and innovative solutions for an emergency shelter system that is aligned with the County’s vision of homelessness sheltering.”  With the Transition House closure, the RFP is now being expedited.

Transition House - Feb 23, 2018
Transition House – Feb 23, 2018

Transition House could bid if they wished – their current contract expired December 31, 2017 and they remain closed. See link below for more about them.  They have beds for 24 individuals, which include single men, single women and families. It’s supposed to be only for a night or two but this can turn into weeks since there are no real alternatives.

The County studied homelessness a few years ago and a plan was adopted with transition housing a part of the plan.  The County is now using a “Housing First” approach with the belief that people “can only focus on other elements of self-sustainability, such as employment, appropriate medical attention, and family management, once they have a stable home from which to build.”

Another problem for transition housing is that Cornerstone – the shelter for abused women – is chronically overcrowded.

Once the bids come in from Service providers, the County will be able to implement an upgraded solution.  The memo from staff and the presentation to Council (see links below) gave more details on intent but nothing specific – just that they want innovative shelter services incorporating best practices based on the ‘Housing First’ model.  Their recommendations came from the Consultant –  OrgCode Consulting, Inc. – a subject matter expert in housing and homelessness.  It’s hard to see how anything will be implemented immediately unless they choose an existing service provider like Transition House.

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Deborah OConnor

This is all busy work to make it look like they’re doing something. They should level with us about the failure of senior governments to provide funding for bricks and mortar and lobby those governments for the supports all communities like ours need to really solve the problem. We have just under 500 applications for public housing gathering dust in the County files right now and most of them are paying 50% or more of their income for bad housing. What can we do about that with no money to build?